What lies beneath

  • Innovative engineering solutions to complicated underground challenges
  • Safety team's successfully overcame language barrier
  • Knowledge gained on Contract 901 will be carried on to future rail projects

The first train making use of Hong Kong Island's expanded Admiralty Station on the new South Island Line in December 2016 marked the completion of Contract 901 for the MTR Corporation.

Works to get to that point involved the construction of a new interchange station and associated cavern and tunnels, connecting the existing Admiralty Station with the new South Island and Shatin to Central Lines.

Located 45m beneath one of Hong Kong Island’s busiest districts, close to live rail lines and stations, the works were some of the most complicated that Laing O’Rourke has undertaken.

Project manager (Station Structure), Adrian Stearn, health and safety manager John Hannon and construction manager (tunnels and cavern) Ralph Goninan relocated from Australia to work on the milestone project.

Rising to the challenge

Contract 901’s challenges included the underpinning of the existing Island Line and Tsuen Wan Line running tunnels, which remained live throughout the works, the excavation of three passages below the existing Admiralty Station, and extensive heavy civil engineering works.

But innovative engineering solutions meant rail operations could continue as normal. Project Manager (Station Structure) Adrian Stearn says the project developed "a very robust engineering and automated monitoring solution" that allowed the existing Island Line running tunnels to be excavated and underpinned without disruption to MTR services.

One particular challenge was the tunnel portion of the project, which consisted of a 42m shaft leading to four sets of 150m platform tunnels and transitioning into two 200m overrun tunnels – all connected via a central cavern.

Once again, innovative engineering solutions were utilised to great effect. Construction Manager (Tunnels and Cavern) Ralph Goninan explains: “We worked closely with the entire workforce, utilising the digital model to help plan and execute the precast installation of the shaft safely,” says Ralph.

Safety in mind

Safety – as always – remained at the forefront. However, communication with the local workforce was a major test for Health and Safety Manager John Hannon and his onsite team, with the language barrier providing a regular challenge to effective engagement.

Nevertheless, the works were completed without any serious injuries and the project received a number of safety awards.

“The team put a huge amount of effort into developing the safety awareness of and technical competence of our direct labour force, which, through strong leadership, exemplar behaviours, excellent communication and a nurturing environment, resulted in a committed and resilient workforce,” says Adrian.

Lessons learned

The knowledge and experience gained on Contract 901 will be carried on to future rail projects. Adrian, who remains onsite to assist MTR for the time being, reflects: “Having an extremely detailed understanding of your client’s goals, and clear and open communication channels, is vital.”

Ralph says he looks forward to "implementing some of our lessons learned" as Laing O’Rourke plays its part in delivering the NSW Government’s Sydney Metro.

Finally, John is relocating to Adelaide, Australia to work on the Torrens Junction project, where he plans to repeat Contract 901's safety successes. However, he adds “One of the key lessons for me was you are only as good as the team member next to you, and we had a brilliant team who worked so well together, along with support and backing from management.”